Joe Kabalan saved my VAIO!

I guess I was one of the lucky ones, and in that way unlucky as well since I never realized it was happening… I had no symptoms: no seizures, no failure to wake up in the morning, no sudden gaps in my memory. I didn’t even realize that I had a problem until I was fiddling with some project and I happened to hit escape during boot. Into the setup I went, and what did I see? 256M of memory, half of what it should be… Now it made sense, all those little things that nagged at the back of the mind without being outright pains: the slow file opens, the heavy swapping. Not enough to hurt, but enough to slow me down.

I did some testing, thinking it was a bad memory module and that I would just get a new one at Circuit City. Nope, it appeared that one of the memory slots would no longer recognize the memory. I also tried putting in a 512M module into the one working slot and learned that my laptop won’t recognize high density DDR memory. So much for that quick fix.

Well, I kinda like my Sony laptop; and as much as I would like to replace it with a PowerBook I need to get a few more miles out of this one.

I checked with Sony. They don’t ‘fix’ computers. They make a guess at the part that isn’t working and they replace it. In this case, they want $700 to replace the motherboard. Blech.

I started looking on-line for companies that fix Sony laptops. During that quest I encountered a message board thread about the very problem I am having. It appears to be a common problem for several series of Sony laptops, though for some people their laptops don’t boot at all. That’s where I was lucky, I could at least still use mine.

This is also where I encountered Joe Kabalan of AQS Computer Services. Joe posted several detailed explanations regarding a problem that perfectly fit the experience I had been having. Most importantly, his explanations fit my ‘geek sense’ intuition about the problem. It appears that the Sony robotic assembly machines are too economical in their use of solder, and wind up with solder connections on the SODIMM modules that easily break. Joe mentions in his posts that AQS Computer Services fixes this problem for a nominal fee. Joe described the problem well enough that anyone so inclined could fix it themselves with the right equipment. Unfortunatly my Weller is in Tampa and I am in San Francisco, and I don’t need to go and buy more stuff…

I wrote Joe, describing my problem. He sent me back a semi-form-letter reply that described not only my problem, but also several other problems that tend to plague Sony laptops and his price to fix them. We exchanged a couple of emails. With a one year warranty on the repair, and my good feeling about it, I boxed up my laptop and sent it via FedEx overnight to the other side of the country.

I bit my nails a lot that week.

Two days later, fairly early in the morning, Joe calls me and tells me my laptop is finished and tested. I send him a payment via paypal and he sent me a confirmation that the laptop would be shipping that day. In case you haven’t noticed, Joe was very responsive to email and fairly prompt in his replies.

The next day FedEx drops off a box for me. Not the same box I shipped. Joe took the time and effort to re-package my laptop, most likely because I used what I had available and it was a rather shoddy packing job. I popped open the memory cover and looked over the work. It is easy to see where the solder traces have been touched up, and the work is very clean.

It wasn’t until a day or so later that I realized that Joe also tightened up my screen hinges. It was that little thing, that wasn’t part of the repair but went the extra step, that made me feel it was worth sitting down and typing this all out. If I can lead one person Joe’s way to get their Sony GRX-580 laptop with the second SODIMM slot dead then I’ll be happy. He deserves the business.